Weekend entrepreneurs, we salute you (plus tools for your next project)

weekend entrepreneur


It’s good that we acknowledge entrepreneurs, but I think we sometimes forget to nurture the entrepreneurial spirit — that subtle and yet powerful notion many of us harbour to pursue a business idea.

Entrepreneurs don’t fit a particular mold. The greats — Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Larry Page, Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos, for example — all illustrate a passion and a belief in the ideas they found compelling.

Sure, we can also see independence, resourcefulness and admire the excellent problem solving skills they have illustrated in the unstructured environments in which they often flourished, but their journeys all started with an inner-voice that propelled them into action.

There are many people out there who don’t dare call themselves entrepreneurs, and yet they have brilliant ideas and secret desires to build amazing things. Too often however, the world never gets to see those ideas come to life. What if in 1975, with the release of the MITS Altair 8800, the timid Gates never acted on his desire to start a software company with Paul Allen?

That begs the question, what stops us from acting on that subtle, yet nagging desire to start something? Time. Maybe. Startup capital. Perhaps. In earlier articles we’ve noted just how little it costs to bootstrap a tech startup, and that time is not really a factor if you deeply desire to do something. So, if money isn’t really an issue, and neither is time, what else is there?

I believe it has something to do with the cultural expectations that come with being tagged as an entrepreneur, committing to the lifestyle and something large, focusing on the extremes: a binary outcome of success and failure. The entrepreneur archetype is often seen as unwavering in their efforts to bring their idea to life, but there’s another type of entrepreneur…

A weekend-entrepreneur is someone who exists between a corporate 9-5 and operating their own business at greater than normal financial risk. This type of unsung entrepreneur wouldn’t frown on serendipitous financial gain, but more than anything, the person harbours a strong desire to flesh out or prototype and idea in their spare time.

If you identify with the notion of a weekend-entrepreneur and have always wanted to turn your thoughts into a tangible product, there are some powerful, cost-effective services that can help you do just that. Whether you do it yourself, or rope in a code monkey, we hope the following services inspire you to start something.

A rolling start

To get going as quickly as possible, it’s a good idea to see if there are any ready-made components available on which you can build your idea. That’s where platforms such as WordPress or Drupal come in handy, since they have large communities that build add-ons or plugins to cater for a certain use-case.

A service like Themeforest.net serves as a hub for the above mentioned platforms (and others) that not only aids in design inspiration, but can give you a rolling start towards your goal.

For example, do you want to do a spin on the traditional jobs board? Look at this WordPress theme. Do you want to build a site where couples can plan their weddings? Then, this isn’t a bad place to start. How about a plugin that helps you to get your ecommerce idea rolling? Look here.


While some are comfortable with a moving target, others prefer to blueprint their design before development begins — that’s where prototyping and wireframing comes in. Whereas wireframing is simply concerned with creating layout and design blueprints, prototyping is about creating basic, working models of sites or applications.

Last year, we compiled a list of over 25 tools to help you with this process.

One of the most interesting tools we found, is called Moqups.

It’s a basic, HTML5-based wireframing tool that allows you to export your designs as PDFs or PNGs. If you combine them with tools like InVision, FieldTest or ClickDummy that allow you to add hotspot links to static designs, you’re looking at a completely free prototyping solution.

Consider however, that although these tools are helpful, your wireframing process can be as simple as a pencil sketch on a piece of paper, using design stencils or drawing your designs in Photoshop.


Once you’ve blueprinted your idea (or not), it’s time to put it online. The idea here is to make the process easy on your wallet, without disregarding service quality or scalability.

Many, many people would recommend shared hosting at the US-based DreamHost. For US$8.95 a month you get unlimited disk storage and bandwidth for as many domains as you want. You also get unlimited MySQL databases and email accounts. DreamHost is currently running a special that offers the above, plus a free domain for US$3.95 per month for the first year.

Before you run off to sign up for DreamHost, consider A Small Orange (ASO). At US$35 a year for the company’s “Tiny” package, it’s a steal. You are however limited to 250 MB of storage and 5 GB of bandwidth, but if you’re just looking to test out an idea, it’s extremely cost-effective, and speaking from experience, I’m pretty sure you won’t get better 24/7 customer service anywhere else.

By the way, for every kilowatt-hour of electricity used to host your website at ASO, another one and one-half kilowatt-hours of electricity is generated by renewable energy projects and delivered to the power grid — how cool is that?

Many hosting services — including the two mentioned above — offer free first year domain registrations, but give Hover and Name a look if you’re looking for something specific.


Selling online used to be hard. Nowadays it’s astonishingly easy. Marketplaces like Amazon, eBay and Etsy takes care of just about everything for you, but what if you wanted to start your own ecommerce business?

If you’re already running a WordPress.org site, don’t miss out on WooCommerce. The free WordPress plugin allows you to turn a WordPress site into a fully-fledge ecommerce store — it even offers free payment gateway integration thanks to Amazon.

Beyond WordPress there’s the free, community version of Magento, the powerful, open source ecommerce software that helps you deploy a fully functioning ecommerce site in very little time. Although there’s no customer support for the free version, it has a large community with readily available advice.

If this all sounds like too much work, and you’d simply like to start selling your Maker Faire contraption rather than create a new type of ecommerce experiment, check out Shopify. Starting at US$29, you can sell unlimited products and have access to unlimited bandwidth and gorgeous themes to complement your brand.

Image: Blake Patterson via Flickr.



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